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Tips for Travel: Carry-on items you should and shouldn't carry to get through security faster.
Travel has gotten harder. The downturn of economies across the globe has certainly not made it cheaper, but since September 11th, 2001, security, (along with methods employed in purported association with security), has steadily escalated to make airports a hassle for travelers.
This post is the first of several in which I will offer helpful tips for men and women who are like me; rugged individualists who are interested in ways that they can enjoy a positive journey away from home with as little inconvenience as possible. I do a fair amount of international flying, and my last trip saw me through the baggage and customs processes of domestic and international terminals in the United States and India, as well as Germany.
You're going to have to do it.
In the US, air travel’s “new” standards have become accepted. Arrive several hours early, have your carry-on liquids in a plastic bag, be prepared for an enthusiastic fondling from the people in blue uniforms. (I’m kidding about that last part, it’s not mandatory, at least not in the US yet.)
Know your limits.
Don’t show up at the checkpoint with a rolling duffel and a handbag stuffed with the contents of half your dresser. It is no picnic to be called out of line to throw out your extra tube of sunscreen or to try one last time to make your pillow fit all the way in to your bag.
Also bear in mind that the baggage size guidelines are not arbitrary, they keep you friendly with your fellow passengers. No one is more resented on an airplane than the person who packs too much and expects their neighbors to be “just fine with it” when they take up more than their fair share of overhead bin space.
Don’t complain in line. Don’t act surprised if something isn’t as you expect it to be. You’re dealing with the TSA here; they operate much like the DMV. If you balk or make trouble, they have a selection of responses that they are trained and allowed to give. If you begin to make a scene because you feel slighted, you will simply make yourself late for your flight when they call their superior to come talk you down and/or search you further. Within the bounds of reason, do as they ask from the get-go. Don’t be a problem and you won’t have a problem.
Speeding things up.
The key to getting through security with as little stress as possible is to pack your bags and carry-ons with the security in mind, not your destination. Remember that you will need to open your bag and remove items at some point at your destination, and at that time you will have ample opportunities to reorganize or repack. Until then, let your baggage and even your clothing do the work for you.
Wear a jacket.
When I travel, I always wear a jacket that is comfortable and functional. And by functional, I mean pockets. A jacket with two good pockets in the front and a secure interior pocket or two is invaluable. Why? Because if you take the contents of your pants, such as your phone, wallet, keys, change, and even your watch and belt, and transfer them to the pockets of a good jacket before you get to the security desk, all you have to do is smile at the TSA agent, place your jacket and shoes into a bin, and walk through the metal detector. You will be surprised at how much the agents themselves are surprised by the simplicity of this move.
And a quick note about your jacket. Don’t just grab your nearest windbreaker or shell out for one of those ridiculous khaki vests that screams “I’m a tourist with my money in a pouch around my neck!” Wear something that is functional, but also fashionable and respectful to your country of destination. The negative stereotype concerning Americans traveling abroad is partly due to usually being the identifiably casual crowd. Most countries place a higher value on a fastidious appearance, so don’t be “that guy” or “that girl” in sweatpants or shorts and bright white tennis shoes when you’re on your big trip to Paris. People will take you far more seriously if you’re dressed like an adult. From personal experience, I recommend TravelSmith for excellent travel jackets. Their “Navigator” jacket will likely be my next major purchase.
On the carrying and scanning of electronics.
Different countries’ laws vary on which electronics have to be removed from their bags, but to leave home, the US requires cameras and laptops to be removed from their bags and sent through the scanner in their own bin. So how can we make this part easier?
If you carry a camera and a laptop or tablet/e-reader in one your carry-ons, put them in the same bag. I carry an ultra-compact LowePro bag that holds my iPad and camera both comfortably and securely, with space left in the front pouch for a book. Keeping all of your electronics in the same bag will allow for you to only have to open one zipper to take them out and consequently put them back in. The last thing you want to have to do is a multi-bag shuffle when the person behind you in line is trying to get to their stuff at the same time.
A quick word on shoes.
In the US, you’re going to have to take your shoes off. So, at least for as long as you will be traveling through airports, where shoes that you can easily slip out of and place on the belt. Suede slip-ons are always comfortable and always in style. Whatever you choose to wear, for the sake of your country’s reputation, just please don’t wear Crocs.
A final word.
Whether you are a veteran traveler or a embarking on your first trip abroad, the most important thing to do is stay calm. Don’t let the appearance of a rush raise your blood pressure or make you harried. Just keep your items organized, go through security using your own methods or the techniques I’ve listed above, and enjoy your trip!